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A “behind–the–ears” look at Disneyland
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David Koenig
The Return of the Rocket Rod—and Other Short Stories
For the last few weeks, all eyes have been fixed on Disney's California Adventure. Amid the excitement and media attention generated by the opening of a second gate, everyone seems to have forgotten about the first.

Something must have changed at Disneyland since all the Christmas decorations came down. Let's catch up on Walt's original, shall we?

The first surprise is noting that the parks' admission prices haven't changed in the last two months. Even the competition, which always matches Disney's price hikes, was expecting another increase by the time DCA opened. A Universal Studios-Hollywood manager noted: "We just put the $44 and $45 ticket signs away as it looks like Disney is going to hold at $43 for a while. Easter? Memorial Day?"

Safety sign on Snow White ride

Inside the gates, the most obvious change is all the safety signage that has been—or soon will be—added to virtually every attraction (see "Idiot-proofing the Parks"). Protective devices also may be added to some attractions as they go down for rehab. The most significant additions, of course, will be to Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. WDI is still equipping the vehicles with safety mechanisms.

Roger Rabbit's closure—now nearing five months—should at least be shorter than Rocket Rods'. Management still hopes the ride can reopen by Easter week to help soak up the anticipated crowds. The week before last, WDI returned a lone Rocket Rod to the park. But the vehicle now sits in the maintenance bay—in nothing resembling operable condition.

A common sight when the Rods first opened -a push vehicle being set up to guide a downed Rocket Rod back to the maintenance shed
A common sight when the Rods first opened -a push vehicle being set up to guide a downed Rocket Rod back to the maintenance shed

"All upgrade work on the vehicle was stopped in process, and the vehicle was reassembled—sort of—and returned to us," says a maintenance worker. "There is no one currently assigned to Rods, and all of the ex-Rods crew have been dispersed around both parks, mostly DCA."

For more than five months, the Rocket Rods console and monitors have sat unprotected from the elements. That, the crewman suggests, is not an indication that upper management thinks the ride won't return. "Blame the current manager of the South Team (the maintenance subgroup responsible for the ride) for not caring about his attractions," he says.

Other attractions also are down. The fort on Tom Sawyer Island (where last month a small girl lost a finger when she snagged her ring on the trigger of a toy rifle and fell) has reopened—minus the rifles. But the tower where the accident occurred remains locked up.

The annual rehab of "it's a small world", set to coincide with the dismantling of its holiday theming, may take longer than usual. "This year's 'small world' rehab proved to be a prime example of why the current management of Disneyland would qualify for Darwin Awards," groused a maintenance worker. "When the flume was drained for rehab, the bypass reservoir under the station was NOT drained. This bypass is there to balance the water flow when the station is full of boats so that the level throughout the ride remains constant. As the water at 'small world' has to be chemically treated daily, the reservoir water rapidly became The Black Lagoon! At the end of the rehab, the newly-painted flume was filled, the newly-painted boats were put in the water, and the newly-cleaned pumps began to cycle that water throughout the building."

He claims the stench was so bad that the building had to be cleared, and the contractors sent home. Reportedly, all the boats and the flume had to be cleaned and repainted.

The Tiki Roof adjacent to the Plaza Pavilion is deteriorating
The Tiki roof adjacent to the Plaza Pavilion is deteriorating

Despite everything boarded up with "Closed for Maintenance" signs, a few attractions that are still operating could use the downtime. "Your article on the Tiki Room really cheered up many cast members," an employee wrote. "Some wished that their attraction had a corporate sponsor that cared."

A Jungle Cruise skipper remarked, "Gee, with such feedback, it's too bad Jungle doesn't have a sponsor. We need to fix up the attraction." He claims the Jungle "is suffering severe soil erosion, and the waterfalls are severely leaking from the inside, causing the ground to be saturated. On Storybook, many of the miniature houses need painting, and on Peter Pan, there is a piece of Big Ben in the flight over London that has not been fixed in over six months."

Outside the gates, the problem has been insufficient parking. With massive crowds anticipated for the opening weekend of DCA, Disneyland offered free off-site parking—way off-site. This past weekend, guests interested in saving $7 were going to be invited to park several miles away at Edison Field, home of the Anaheim Angels. Buses were supposed to run continuously from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m., shuttling guests to and from Disneyland's Main Entry Plaza (the yellow zone in the Esplanade area). When the other lots filled up, attendants would redirect visitors to Edison Field and hand them a flyer with directions.

Due in part to chilly weather, the crowds never materialized. One cast member said a grand total of one car with two people inside took advantage of the free parking. Still, when business picks up, expect Disneyland again to try out the distant lot. If it looks like it might be an overflow day, call Guest Relations beforehand at (714) 781-7290 to see if they'll be running shuttles to Edison Field.

The park also has opened an additional cast member parking lot. Called OCML (Orangewood Cast Member Lot), the lot is located on Orangewood and Harbor Boulevard. The city of Anaheim has been urging Disney "to make more parking available on peak days by moving employees to park off-site to open spaces for guests." That has cast members wondering if they'll eventually have to give up the their current parking (KCML on Katella, BCML off Ball) for guests. And, just how far "off-site" will cast members end up parking?

You can write to David atthis link..

The Return of the Rocket Rod—and Other Short Stories


David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.

You can contact David here.


Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)


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